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Building and Engaging an "A-Team"

GCN convened a panel of recognized community leaders as part of the Nonprofit CEO Peerspectives program at the Federal Reserve Bank of Georgia on April 17 to discuss "Selling Your Organization to Attract 'A' Player Board Members & Donors."

The Nonprofit CEO Peerspectives program design blends peer-based learning and relationship building with high-quality speakers, professionally facilitated discussion, and executive coaching. Panelists included Veronica Biggins, Managing Director of Diversified Search; Karen Robinson, SVP Sales & Marketing of NanoLumens; A.B. Short, Senior Advisor to the CEO and Co-Founder at MedShare International; and Karen Beavor, President & CEO of Georgia Center for Nonprofits. 

The participants of this eight-month nonprofit CEO leadership program were actively engaged. In GCN’s comprehensive 2011 research study of Georgia nonprofit governance, board recruitment was found to be a top source of CEO dissatisfaction. Board members also gave themselves relatively low ratings in board recruitment vs. other areas of board participation. Only 70% of board members reported being satisfied with their success in board recruitment with 57% satisfaction in CEOs.

Effective boards don't just happen.

Key board recruitment insights offered by the panel include:

It’s the board’s role to recruit fellow board members. The caliber and commitment of board members, as demonstrated in part to targeted board members by their active, enthusiastic role in the board development process, is a primary key to success in recruitment.

Do your homework and personalize the process to the specific candidate. Based on your organization’s strategic plan, identify the skills, influence and qualities of board members needed to help your organization to achieve its goals. Then target and approach candidates who you believe have both those skills and a passion for your cause. Passion on the board is critical.

Be transparent and clear about what is expected of the board member. Have written expectations of the board role along with specific commitments (e.g. time, committee service, participation in events, financial contribution) and if fundraising is expected. Don’t be shy if board members are expected to contribute financially; foundations and major donors expect 100% board participation.

Tap your major donors for
board candidates.

Have an ongoing process for recruitment in place. Don’t just throw together a nominating process three months before you need to recruit one or more board members; board recruitment is an ongoing process. Create a pool of candidates by involving skilled volunteers in committee or task force work where they can gain commitment and you can observe their capabilities. Keep an eye out for donors or other stakeholders where you may also see a skill match; tap your major donors for candidates.

An engaged and effective board is best positioned to be successful recruiting qualified board members. Intentionally working on creating and maintaining a high-performing board through the use of best practices for orienting, structuring and engaging the board, regular assessments, and board development plans is important. Effective boards don’t just happen.

GCN regularly provides courses on all aspects of governance, including recruitment. GCN Consulting Services provides a board development offering from customized training & facilitation to comprehensive board development consulting. For more information on GCN board consulting please click hereNonprofit University also offers courses on governance and board development.

Cindy Cheatham is VP of Consulting Services for the Georgia Center for Nonprofits

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